Santa Ana winds can leave you plagued with dry, itchy skin. The condition is the result of dehydration (lack of moisture) or a lack of natural skin oils, according to Joey Marie, owner of Unique Impressions skin-care salon in Dana Point.
Most people with extremely dry skin have a combination of the two conditions, and treating the problem on both fronts will bring about rapid improvement. "Men are particularly susceptible because some rarely use moisturizers," said Marie. According to a 1991 Simmons Market Research Bureau report, only 49.1% of men use hand and body lotion.
"Some of the things people do to treat the problem can actually make it worse, like taking a long, hot bubble bath or scrubbing at flaky skin." Here are her suggestions on improving skin condition in preparation for warm-weather months when you'll want to bare a little skin that doesn't look and feel like sandpaper.
Dehydration and Oil Depletion
* Drink up: Keep a bottle of fresh water with you at all times. Sipping throughout the day replenishes moisture lost from exposure to sun, wind and heated rooms.
* Avoid cigarettes, coffee, tea and cola: These deplete your system of necessary fluids.
* Protect from sun and wind: Most of us use sun block during hot summer months, but in Southern California, exposure to sun is a year-round concern. Use a moisturizer with sun block and reapply lipstick or lip protectant frequently on windy days.
* Create humidity: Forced-air heating depletes moisture from the air in your home, office and automobile. Sleep with a humidifier near your bed to make up for this imbalance.
Maintaining Natural Oils
* Mealtime: Not enough fat in the diet affects the body's ability to produce enough sebum to lubricate skin surfaces. Skin lacking this natural protectant is overly sensitive and easily damaged. Its natural moisture evaporates quickly, undermining efforts to improve moisture balance. Supplements containing vitamins A, C and E also help build beautiful skin from the inside out.
* Bath time: Contrary to popular belief, a long, hot session in the tub or shower will not help dry skin. Prolonged exposure to hot water can deplete oils. Stay away from bath salts and bubble bath, because many contain harsh alcohol-based solutions that only add to your skin problem. Likewise for chlorinated pools and spas. Be sure to wash off thoroughly and apply lotion afterward.
* Bedtime: Don't sleep with your face buried in your pillow. Your skin replenishes itself while you sleep, and your pillow could be absorbing oils and moisture beneficial to your face.
If Dryness Persists
* Switch detergents: Harsh cleaners leave a residue in clothing that is irritating and drying for sensitive skin. Shop around for a mild formula or use a minimal amount.
* Rinse out fabric finishes: Many people complain of itching and dryness after wearing new clothes that are treated with a protective finish. Always wash new clothes before wearing.
* See a doctor: A dermatologist or internist can determine if your dry skin is caused by a medical problem, such as allergies or a thyroid condition.
Skin Care Products
An assessment of your skin care routine at a specialty salon such as Unique Impressions will also help you improve the condition of your skin. "Products that work well for a friend might not work well for you, since each person needs to find the right combination for their skin," Marie said. "It is also important to make adjustments based on your progress."
Unique Impressions features the Dermologica line, developed by the International Dermal Institute. "It's emphasis is on natural ingredients and maintaining the skin's proper acid mantle," Marie said. "There is no formaldehyde, artificial color or fragrances or alcohol in the products."
A basic Dermologica skin care kit for your face or body costs $37. The products are also available separately. Each are packaged in contamination-proof bottles, which allow you to squeeze out the amount needed, without sticking your fingers into a jar.
* Soap is a four-letter word: The pH level (acid to alkaline ratio) of soap is much too acidic for the face. "That tight feeling you get after using soap is a result of your skin being stripped of oils and moisture," Marie said.
* Alternative: Dermologica's cream- or gel-based cleanser, depending on your skin type. ($20 for 8 oz.)
* Avoid astringents: Especially those with specially denatured alcohol or witch hazel. Dermologica offers a spray-on herbal toner ($21 for 8 oz.) for use after cleansing that will help your skin retain moisture.
* Use a mild scrub: "Dry skin lookslike a layer of dead skin, so many people will try to remove it by using a harsh almond or apricot scrub," Marie said. "But this can worsen the problem." A skin prep scrub made of corn cob meal ($21.50 for 2.5 oz. tube) with soothing skin conditioners is recommended instead.
* Moisturizers: "It should be lightweight, so it won't clog pores. Moisturizer also protects against wind, sun and pollution. Men should use it too," Marie said. Dermologica offers moisturizers for three skin types ($25-$30).
* Specialty products: The Dermologica line also includes masques, concentrated skin boosters and an intensive oil replacement product for occasional use. "These go beyond the daily routine to help achieve and maintain the condition of your skin".
* Salon treatments: Unique Impressions offers hydrating treatments to plump up your parched skin cells. Techniques include warm masks, gentle steaming and penetrating moisture creams. Facials range from $35-$55. These may include a hydrating hot paraffin treatment for the hands or feet. The paraffin treatment is also available separately ($10 for hands, $20 for feet and $25 for both).
Source: Dermologica, Unique Impressions Skin Care Salon